Sayadawgyi - Articles
Shocking, Surprising (an article in honor of Sayadawgyi)
By Thamanay Kyaw Sayadaw (English translation by U Hla Myint)
I felt shocked and surprised (by the news of Sayadaw U Pandita’s demise).
Just ten days earlier, Sayadawgyi told me: “That is how the rich makes use of things. Why don’t you tear it into four pieces so that you can save it for further use?” It is what Panditarama Sayadawgyi said it to me when he was at his lunch table, and I pulled out a piece of tissue from the box to clean his table. He, at 95, was then in Yangon General Hospital and had been breathing with the help of a machine.
By the words, “That is how the rich makes use of things!” he said sarcastically that I behaved like the rich. It reminds me of a rich woman who lived in Saketa city during the Buddha’s time. She got a very strain headache, and Jīvaka, the best physician of the time, gave her the medical treatment by having her breathe in the medicinal butter through her nose, and then spit it out from her mouth. When the butter came out from the mouth, she asked her servant to collect it with piece of cotton. Seeing that, Jīvaka thought, “I made this medicine with valuable ingredients; Such a stingy woman may not pay me a suitable price for that.” Reading his mind through his facial expression the rich woman said to him, “Don’t worry, sir. You won’t be underpaid. This butter is reusable for foot massage or lighting. I just make the best use of it available.” How thrifty she was! We should learn how to be thrifty by following her example, indeed. As long as we waste things, we will lose a chance to be rich.
We visited Sayadawgyi in Asia Royal Hospital on April 7, 2016 just a day after I was back from Viet Nam. At that time, I saw U Myint Twe (the Health Minister) and U Phyo Min Thein (the Premier of Yangon State) inviting Sayadawgyi to tell them whatever he needed. And I heard the Helath Minister telling him that he made all the arrangements for his health. Then, he replied, “It is up to the doctors’ expertise.” So, later Sayadawgyi moved to the Yangon General Hospital as managed by the Health Minister and Yangon State Premier.
Sayadawgyi’s thriftiness also reminded me of what Mahā-Gandayone Sayadawgyi once said in one of his morning speeches compiled by Venerable Mahosadha-paṇḍita:
“You should be thrifty anywhere. Thriftiness is different from stinginess. Using things properly is thriftiness. I’m upset when you keep the light on without using it. It does not matter if you use it as necessary. I don’t want anything go to waste.
You know this saying:
Working hard and saving cent by cent
A Chinese gets a big house built
Saving cent by cent
An Indian gets a big house built, too.
We Burmese are poor since we waste a lot.”
The Health Minister visited Sayadawgyi again in Yangon General Hospital and respectfully said to him, “Please feel free to let us know at any time, whatever you need, sir”. This time Sayadawgyi was on the oxygen machine, and did not recognize him well. I was then nearby, and had to say that it was the Health Minister talking to him. Then Sayadawgyi said: “Please, try your best for the sake of the nation and the Buddha’s teachings.”
Again, these words reminded me of what Sayadawgyi had said to the then chief monk of the state, who summoned Sayadawgyi to appear at the Supreme Court of the State Sangha Committee, and officially warned him against allowing a woman to teach the novice monks at Panditarama Center. Sayadawgyi had been conducting the Buddhist Cultural Training Course during the school holiday for many decades. He let about seven hundred students to be ordained so that they can experience the monastic life by themselves, learning the Buddha’s teachings and putting them into practice. This course is of four grades, basic, intermediate, upper intermediate, and advanced. The subjects for the advanced level include the Burmese translation of the inscriptions on Emperor Asoka’s pillars because he wanted to introduce children to such a great king who did a lot for his people and Buddhism alike. So, he invited Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi (1991 Nobel Peace Price Winner) to give a lecture on that subject. This extremely upset the military government at that time. That was why the State Monk Committee warned him against doing such thing again. In the response to the State Sangha Committee, Sayadawgyi said that there was no Vinaya rule that prevents a woman from teaching the monks. In the conclusion, he said “I will continue working for the sake of the nation and the sāsanā.”
Now in the ICU, he asked the Health Minister and Yangon State Premier to do the same as he has been doing, that is, to do their best for the sake of the nation and the sāsana.
If he were still alive, I’m wondering, what advice he would give to Aung Sun Suu Kyi and the President U Thin Kyaw who are like his daughter and son. When he was alive he used to give them many words of advice. I’m pretty sure that he would definitely give them endless words of advice about “for the sake of the nation and the sāsanā”. I just wish he could. In retrospect, I found this father, this daughter and this son have something in common. It is that they went through many ups and downs in life in order to eventually reach their goal, and it’s like a little stone that gets polished by its long journey from the mountain top to the low land. Below is a poem that I composed when I was a young monk:
From the top of the mountain
To the low land a stone descends.
It gets polished by crashing along the way.
On the long journey of life
People become smart and gentle
By the ups and downs of life
So, the message I want to give you here is that we can reach our goal if we can go through vicissitudes of life with patience and perseverance. Here is one more poem:
Despite the storm of vicissitudes;
Don’t give up; Don’t surrender.
If you keep on going with courage
You will reach the goal in the end.